The U.S. government’s groundbreaking Fourth National Climate Assessment brings long-overdue clarity to the issue of climate change by laying out the costs of inaction in stark and unambiguous language. The overarching message of the report could not be clearer: act now to substantively address the factors contributing to climate change or face a future inevitably characterized by weather-related catastrophes, disruptions to agriculture, life-altering threats to coastal communities, a crisis in human health, and economic dysfunction in every region of the country.
Importantly, the report repeatedly calls for communities to not only undertake vigorous actions to reduce emissions and mitigate climate effects, but also to begin an urgent process to plan for resilience and make design and planning decisions “that can withstand ongoing and future climate risks.” That sentiment tracks precisely with the recommendations of ASLA’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Climate Change and Resilience, whose report, Smart Policies for a Changing Climate, stated that “We can create more resilient and climate-smart communities by designing and planning in concert with natural systems, by applying transit-oriented development and smart growth strategies, and by addressing environmental justice and equity issues.”
The climate assessment report is a clarion call to action, challenging those who plan and design within built and natural environments to “mainstream adaptation and mitigation into land-use, hazard mitigation, development, and capital investment planning.” We couldn’t agree more. Landscape architects are ready and eager to contribute their wide-ranging skills and problem-solving talents to meet the many challenges brought on by climate change while improving the quality of life in communities everywhere.